Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Right now today whatever.

I dropped off the face of the earth!  Just for a week or so and this post is more for tradition and documentation on my end. 

We got kiddos off to school for eighth and seventh grades and everyone got the teachers they wanted and sports begin tomorrow!  I'm going to be good and ready for Labor day weekend!  This stage is so much fun. I think when we aren't tackling the hard parts of life we laugh so much more than we ever used to.  Watching these kids grow up is equal parts hard and delight.  The hard is so hard sometimes that I think I'll never be able to breathe easily again and wonder if we'll ever come out of it... then the delightful parts smack us across the face and snap us out of that, and into such an intense fun that I think we'll never go back to those hard days!  Ah, life.  I think it's designed so that the good is SO good, it helps with quick recovery from the hormone dips! 

I didn't get permission from the kiddos on these photos which I pretty much always do these days... but they turned out so beautifully that I decided to share them.  (If they object, I'll take them down.) I'm shocked when I look at my son and see my husband in there in pieces.  I see Adrain in the set of his broadening shoulders, and his male confidence which mirrors Adrain and takes me completely by surprise sometimes.  I'll be panicking about something and he will put his arm around me and calmly tell me it's going to be okay.  Or I'll be wandering lost in a parking lot and he will steer my elbow and say, "Mom, we parked over there."  Or those moments when I see the shape of his chin and it's his daddy.  Growing a good little man over here!  Er... a taller than me by six inches so far little man that is. 

 These photos captured my kids in their many personalities.  I love that.  We always skip school photos and I just print up wallets of first day pics for all the relatives.  We always take them on our front porch.  Or the field next door.  I go for easy and inexpensive and now it's become tradition!  They know the drill and the neighbors across the street come out and cheer them on.  I love that too. 

Then there is my daughter, my introvert who teaches me so much about relationships.  I often fail but she is so quick to forgive and offer grace.  She is such a little lady and all I wanted when I prayed for a girl, was a daughter-friend someday.  We have enough glimpses into that future that I feel giddy sometimes.  Shopping together, manicures, cooking, and watching chick flicks- all things we do together now and love, how much better can it possibly get?  She is so like her daddy in personality which is funny because Joe is more like me in ways. She tends to be more reserved and calm and amused by my extroverted (and often dramatic) life exclamations.  I just really, really like her. 
 Here's to another school year!  Praying big things over my kids. 

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Summer lookback...

I'm laughing as I write this...The summer we had planned was a tad boring.  We had a job change and some financial goals to meet (darn you Dave Ramsey) so we didn't plan anything. 

That said, I read a quote the other day that said "It's not always rainbows and butterflies, but sometimes it is."  That friends, is my life.  It's not always.. but you know, sometimes it just IS if you can find a way to see it that way! This summer I broke up with a good portion of social media which was probably the best thing I did if I'm brave enough to be honest, and I found myself focusing more on the simple pleasures of each day and documenting them!  Crazy (I know) that simply changing your thinking can change everything.  It had a way of correcting my brain into a more positive mode of thinking, and that's how I'm exiting this summer.  There were moments of rainbows and butterflies!  And I savored them in spite of the moments that weren't.  What I'm most laughing about is that for almost each of our highlights below, I could take the negative road and share how one kid was being disrespectful or how we left early due to some melt down or this plan that got derailed etc.  Yes, it happened.  But so did the good and I want to be a person who finds a way to focus more on that side.  So as you read these don't think we aren't real... we very much ARE... just sip the sweetness of the glass half full with me! (grin)

Summer highlights. 

*Ava adopted a baby guinea pig named Twister.

*He got his name because my bible study group got us hooked on a BBC show called Lark Rise to Candleford and Ava and I pretty much commandeered the television for two weeks straight while we buried ourselves in the land of Larkrisers.  (We experienced a withdrawal very severe that I assume only the return of Downton Abbey can relieve us from.)

*Ava got braces and you'll eventually see them when she decides to smile for me. Ha!

 *Adrain got transferred back to our town so no more commute!
 *This treat from Farmgirl paints shop (opening again on September 14th) arrived to cheer me on as I kicked fear to the curb.  Much more on that to come once school begins and I can compose my thoughts.)

 *The sun shone down so much I pretty much got sick of it! Never thought I'd have my fill but we soaked it up like the rain was coming tomorrow!  I am now fully ready to welcome the rain again with open arms whenever it decides to hit. 
 *Bad photo but a terrific night out with my brother and sis in law.  We left kiddos at home and had our monthly (what we call) Braverman dinner night and we had pizza and pineapple ciders and then dragged the boys to paint pottery with us before we hit the local gelato stand and went for a walk in the dark laughing our butts off.  It was the best and I want to fill my life with events like this. 
 *Passing this local roadside flower booth made my heart happy all summer long.  My family thinks that I single-handedly kept them in business. 
 *Hitting the local lake. I can not believe we live in such a gorgeous area.  Sometimes I take it totally for granted.  This morning last week, we had the beach all to ourselves.  I had a full jug of iced water, a good book, comfy chair and happy swimming kids.  Heaven.
 *I taught my daughter how to braid a flower crown for her hair.  Sheer bliss right here.  One of those magical sweet moments in life.
 *I delighted in being the recipient of some Pre-Season Seahawks tickets from a dear client who wasn't planning to use them.  My boys were crazy-blessed and that blessed my gifts-loving heart!! (And about this photo... yes it's a Mexican wrestling mask... and apparently it's only weird if it doesn't work.)

 *We hosted several gatherings that all were special in their own ways.  I do love hosting and gathering my people! I always wish I had done more of it and that's so much better than the alternative!  Ha!
 *We participated in the Color Run (Joe ran and the rest of us walked.) Joe placed seventh and that experience showed him that he's not only great at running, but he loves it.  Can't wait to see how he does in track this year.  (He is here, sporting his geek-chic attire.  Love this kid.)
 I was the most color blasted one in our family.  Probably because my friend and I couldn't get enough of the dance party afterward and the jumping up and down in the pit with bags of glitter and color. My hair was just plastered and it was the most fun I've had in ages.  Can't wait for the next one. 
 *Time spent with my man.  We do coffee and breakfast together on the weekends, normally when the babies (who are both taller than I am) are still in bed since they sleep wayyyy late these days.  It's peaceful and quiet and we get to talk, do our devotions and sometimes he just leads me.  I think as women we are taught by the world that we don't need to be led but there is something inescapably sexy about a man bringing a godly plan into the conversation and leading both our hearts because he is being led by Jesus.  Be still my heart ladies- it's those moments that matter.  The past year was a little tough on our marriage in some ways... just being the parents of hormonally-driven people has took our breath away and derailed us a little.  Know what I mean?  We could never have imagined!!  We are rounding the gates to our 20th wedding anniversary in November, and we want to keep running strong side-by-side in world where that is rare.  Taking this time together is so crucial and I wouldn't trade it for the world.
*Adventuring together.  Always filled with laughter, wrong directions, varied culture, new sights, IKEA, and of course the trip to the dairy with the best ice cream on the way back home again.  Thank you Canada, we love you.

The kids go back to school on Wednesday.  It feels so early but I'm ready!  Routine, here we come... until I'm sick of you in February and longing for spring break. Ha!!  True story!
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Friday, August 14, 2015

Organized Summer- vol 5 & 6 "Hidden spaces & products"

Hi dear friends.  Are you all feeling a little more organized?  Have you been working in your drawers, your thoughts, your school preparations, and your food storage areas along with me?  I don't know about you, but I'm starting to feel like I've accomplished a lot this summer!  If you are just joining us, make sure and catch up on the past volumes in this series (linked above) and if you're behind, remember the first rule of this series... go easy on yourself.  Remember the steps and methods we discussed in volume one, because that is the foundation we are building on.  Take things one step at a time, and don't let yourself get overwhelmed. I had planned on ending with two separate posts here, but school preparations have forced me to squish things together to wrap this series up.  And... because of that, it's extra long.

*Closets: Today, let's start by doing a bit of light organization in our hidden spaces.  (This may include linen closets, clothing closets, junk drawers & catch all spaces- like under your bed, and under cabinet areas, coat closets and such. In our home, the master closet is huge and we've talked about our solutions here.  I have got to share one of the many brilliant things my boss says regularly while doing jobs in closets and I bet you'll love this.  It's a lose paraphrase of her words, "Things that nobody sees, that are worn under your clothing don't need to be folded, such as sleepwear, underclothing, leggings, socks, and layering tanks."  Put those things into a drawer or bin and don't sweat it.  Take care to hang or fold the rest.  Don't you love that?

*Under bed storage areas are great. My personal belief on them- use em guilt-less-ly!  Don't worry about having bins or boxes, or large artwork stored there and... don't even worry about having it too organized!  It's a perfect place to keep items that are awkward and difficult to organize!  I've got artwork and a tripod under mine. (Oh and a baseball bat. I think that baseball bat was part of my husband's home-defense plan however. Ha!)

*Linen closets are normally small and here's what I have found actually works really well for this space.  Keep your bedding-type linens in the rooms you use them in.  I keep seasonal extras like blankets and pillows in stacks, baskets or closets right in the same room they are used, and they are pretty as well as functional.  As for extra towels, keep those in bathrooms.  Towels will wear more uniformly and a fluffy stack of towels are always lovely.  (If yours aren't fluffy, it might be time to create a garage rag bin, and treat yourself to the gorgeous white hotel towels, reasonably priced, at Costco. My personal fave.) Keep guest towels in the guest room if you feel strongly about keeping them separate.  Table linens can go into bins or baskets in the linen closet, but then you can use that extra valuable storage space for other items that need storing such as decor and such. (This is what I do.) 

*Seasonal storage spaces: I keep our seasonal holiday items in the garage. One great way to organize seasonal items is by limiting them.  I know, I know.  Just hear me out.  Consider giving yourself a pre-set amount of bins that you have space for.  A good rule of thumb for sorting this before storing what you want to keep, is bin-up only what you actually pull out and use each calendar year, and donate whatever else you don't.  (Seasonal clutter builds up when we keep things we feel we "should" keep because of who gave it to us and we never actually put it to use for various reasons.  You can see my thoughts on this in previous posts, but remember that the person who gave it to you probably isn't monitoring your use of it and if you don't use it regularly and don't dearly love it, let it go and be a blessing to someone who WILL love and use it.)  Limiting your bins and never allowing yourself to add more than a set amount is a really helpful way to keep the amount of stored items from getting out of hand.  Personally, I find myself running out of room because of gifted items or Target splurges (raise your hand if you ever fall victim) and that's how I know it's time for a quick donation-sort that will bless others. (You're not getting tired of me telling you to donate your stuff are you?  Oh good!) (wink)

*Junk drawers are massively important, but can also be tidy and the same rules we've gone over from the beginning apply.  Take ten minutes and tackle it, toss the little bits of junk that you'll never use, and contain the like items in small containers or boxes.  Try to limit your junk drawer to... one drawer. (I showed you mine here.)

*The System. Before we begin talking about things you can purchase to make your home all perfect-y... I want to try and encourage you by saying this- don't let what you see all over the internet make you think that everything in your home has to be perfect, or you could lose your mind- you might even go broke!  We don't want that.  There are a ton of solutions that you can come up with that are affordable (most of the ones I mention are) and they can also take time to acquire which is OKAY!  I didn't get my home organized in a day after one giant shopping trip.  I purchased items little by little, as the budget allowed, and when it didn't, I found a solution by either shopping my home, or making do.  And that's okay.  Some things will drive you bonkers if you don't get a solution for them.  Focus there first... then slowly work around to the other things as you can afford that.  Our homes aren't Pinterest.  (wink) Keep in mind all the tips and tricks we've discussed in the previous five weeks and use those systems as you work your way to a more organized home.

*That said... some of my very favorite organizing products are to follow;

*This Ikea expanding rack has my whole heart, especially at $5.99.  It fits the tightest of spaces and redeemed this cupboard that I had totally given up on ever being organized.  I also love this Ikea storage ottoman. I have this and though it doesn't technically match my sectional, it's close enough.  We keep our giant cuddly blanket in there, and a huge wooden tray for when we have drinks and such.

*Oil and vinegar containers are great for more than just oil and vinegar.  I nabbed mine at the grocery store and love using them for my dish soap.  It not only makes the counter look a little more intentional and tidy, but it rations usage nicely for my teenager who tends to dump without thinking when he's on dish duty.

*Glass jars. I have more of these glass jars with lids than I can even count.  It took me a while to figure out that this was the perfect size for my home, and once I did, I only purchase this exact jar, in this size- found at my grocery store. That way, I can interchange them, set several out, or move them into different rooms for different uses, but I've always got the same jar. (Kind of like keeping all your picture frames the same color.)  (Target also carries them)  I use them in every room for all manner of purposes.  Perfect for counter-top snacks, game pieces, collections and bathroom items like nail polishes. 

*Drawer liners like this roll (above) are great because they come in a variety of colors, and don't let things slip. I find mine in the grocery store, near the contact paper and such.

*Slim garbage cans are awesome for tight spaces like small bathroom vanities.  They are a game changer. 

*Tips.  When you need a basket or bin, shop for discounted items at places like Homegoods, Marshalls and TJ Maxx... but always keep them the same general style.  I only buy this certain type of basket weave pattern so no matter the style or size, it's cohesive... um... kinda like my jars.

*My boss blew my mind with this tip. When you paint a room, keep the leftover can in the closet of that same room so when touchups are needed, you'll know right where it's at.  (And you won't be rummaging through old paint cans trying to remember what the color was called.)

*This tip is simple but it's so great.  Get a book-style case for all your DVD's and then put all your movies into it, and toss all the bulky DVD cases!  You will save so much room doing this.  Also, burn your music CD's and keep them on your computer, rather than keeping all those discs you probably aren't even listening to anymore! And donate the actual discs.... to BLESS ANOTHER PERSON!  (you knew it was coming after all this time, didn't you?)

*Cubbies are maybe my favorite item in a kids room.  I love the way they can transition from bins with toys into bookshelf display areas like they have for my daughter as she has gotten older. They are so versatile you can always find a way to use cubby systems. (Yes, her photo is hanging crooked.  Let's move on.)

*Door hanger pockets.  I think I spoke too soon about my favorite kid item for organizing.  This over the door clear shoe hanger is my actual favorite.  If you are wired like my daughter, this is a great solution for you, even if you're not a kid.  She needs to see her stuff.  She doesn't do well with it all hidden and put away and if it's in a drawer, she forgets all about it.  She has loved this system from the first time we installed it and it's worked like a charm for her.  Before, she was always losing things.  Now, everything she has to find a spot for goes into a pocket, and it's clear so she can see right through it.  She hasn't lost one thing since we hung this.  Took me years to figure her out... we also removed the doors off her closet, and hung all her jewelry on command hooks on her wall so everything she owns is truly out in plain sight.

I think we could keep talking for ages...  but it's time to bring this series to a close.  I hope it's helped you get a lid on your chaotic spaces, and I hope most of all it's encouraged you that you don't have to be perfect, spend a ton of money, or do the biggest projects all right now.  I hope you KNOW that you can do this... and that organizing your home will begin to create a level of peace in your heart and home that others will be blessed by.  Feel free to let me know how this process is going for you because I'm cheering you ON!

Happy Organizing!

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Organized Summer- vol 4 "Food Organization"

Oh my goodness you guys are blessing the socks off me during this series with all your sweet comments and feedback!!  After a short break in this series with my last post on StichFix, I am back to talk about more organizing and I think I have mostly gotten the spamming situation under control so will continue to keep comments here open.  I am loving what you all have to say and it's so encouraging to my heart so thank you for the feedback! 

This series is really making me think!  I'm only trying to share things I know personally that work and things I back in my own home and I'm constantly trying to write what I think that any of us are capable of doing, so that nobody leaves discouraged or overwhelmed.  I don't want that!  My heart's desire is (as always) that your time here leaves you refreshed and energized and uplifted because life is filled up with things that make us all feel sub par.  We are delightful works in progress and we don't always get it right, but we can always try again, yes?  We talked about organizing life for back to school last week, which piggy-backed on the previous two weeks, shared in the basics of organizing here, and thinking like an organizer here.

This week, we are talking about food organization and though we could talk a lot more on this subject I'm just hoping to get my basic thoughts down here in today's post.  (The girls I work with and I are always talking about this subject, so I'm toying with doing a fall food/cooking/freezing/large group feeding/entertaining series on this topic if you guys are interested since that seems to be a time when we invite and gather people into our homes.)  As the weather begins to cool soon, I will suddenly find myself working more hours, with the need for well-planned menus on busy nights, slow cooker ideas, pantry storage, freezer preparing, and feeding a crowd. *I find that I can tackle those busy nights if I have first taken the time to tidy my pantry, clean the fridge out, toss expired and unwanted items into the trash bins or food bank bins and begin with a clean slate.

*Grocery shopping. Unfortunately, food organizing can't be discussed with out starting here.  I once loved grocery shopping.  (Then again, maybe it was the free hour of childcare I got at the grocery store that I actually loved.) These days I hate it.  Like, with a passion.  When my kids were little, I found myself pouring over menu ideas, cookbooks, fondly planning that daytime outing to the grocery store, and then spending hours in the kitchen cooking, baking, making things from scratch and loving every moment of it. (Now my pantry holds a few things my kids love, but also make me cringe just a little (looking at you, microwave popcorn and Top Ramen) but it's also real life and I won't lie to you- FYI- It's also not as stocked up as it would be in the fall & winter months, so know that I've normally got quite a few more soup-type ingredients and canned goods in here.)

Then, kids got older, life got busier, and I think maybe I got tireder. (Ha!)  I see the grocery store as the world's biggest nuisance and if I could never go there, I'd be thrilled.  If it can come pre-made, pre-cut, pre-whatever... I'm tempted to buy it! However, if at this stage of life, I can find satisfaction in a well organized system, not to mention a bubbling slow cooker at the end of a long day of work, kid chauffeuring, and homework checking, anyone can. It comes down to organization and planning. Something we can all do!

*Food planning and list making.  My mama has kept the same notepad and pen in the exact same spot, as long as I can remember and adds to it all week long as she runs out of things, and thinks of them.  I have a dry erase version on the side of my fridge.  That alone, makes planning a shopping list easier.  People write things they want, need or have run out of as the week progresses.  I also keep a running list on my phone in a list app.  This is hugely helpful!

When it's time to plan, I gather those lists, a tablet, a few favorite cookbooks and the calendar.  I then begin a list of dates during the week or two-week period.  I jot in any pre-existing plans, then begin picking dinners that will work best on those nights.  I know that a busy night where I've been working and kids have a sport, will be a great night for chili in the slow cooker with a boxed cornbread mix.  A weekend night where we have nothing planned could be something more time consuming like my baked potato soup, or a fun meal.  And then I go from there. I use my pin boards as well as my favorite cookbooks.  (And a side note- I only KEEP the cookbooks I regularly refer to.  The rest have been... you guessed it... donated to bless another person!)

*Pantry organization is something we do a lot of in my job, and I've learned a ton.  The truth is, it's a lot of common sense when you get right down to it. Begin this organizational process by first pulling out old or expired items and think about donating items to a food bank as you go, by gathering anything your family isn't eating or haven't opened because you bought them on a whim but you know you'll never eat.  Then you can begin by making zones in the pantry.  (Personally, it always helps to empty everything out, clean it first, and begin with a fresh space to put things back into, much like our starter system in volume one of this series.) (You'll find yourself returning to this system again and again as you begin to think like an organizer.)

When putting food items back into your pantry, organize them by like groups,  keeping canned goods together, (using risers can be helpful) baking ingredients together, mixes and dry goods together, condiments together, breakfast items together, snacks together and such.  Smaller items can benefit from being placed into clear acrylic storage containers or other storage trays and boxes you have on hand. When I'm at work, we use sticky notes to mark our food zones first, and then place items into them as we go.  It's a great system and keeps you on track with what is intended to go where.  You can even take this one step further, and label your pantry shelves or any clear containers once you're finished, so everyone knows what is intended to go where.   My boss uses wide mouth mason jars for dried fruits, nuts, seeds, and things like that.  When she has company over, she often makes a self-serve salad bar in minutes, but pulling the jars of toppings out, opening them, and setting them on her buffet. People can see through the glass to what they are, and help themselves. She even uses them for refrigerated items like olives and shredded cheese!  (Pure genius if you ask me.  I went right out and implemented this affordable and easy system for myself!!)

This system of organizing will not only help you with your meal planning (since you'll be able to know at a glance what you are stocked up on, and what you are out of) but will trickle down to help you with food budgeting. The adage, "Waste not, want not" rings true in a well-managed home where you know what you have and what you are running low on.

*Maintenance- One thing that helps once you've gone to all this trouble to organize something, is ten second maintenance moments, and this applies to every organized space, not just a pantry.  Maintenance is important, because if you're like me, you live in a real life situation, where even if things are labelled, others in the house might not have the same organizational goals you have. I'm not mentioning any names here, (grin) but there are two children in this house that don't care much about reading labels and putting things back where I want them.  So... because I want to manage our home well, I take the responsibility on my shoulders to take the few seconds to move things back where they should go, whenever I open a drawer or cupboard and see that they are misplaced.  I've noticed that it only takes a moment to correct something once a system is in place, and I've also noticed that people get more and more used to seeing and putting something in a specific spot, so I have to do this less and less as time goes by.  Does that make sense?  Nutshell- take the few seconds, put disarray to rights, and people will eventually expect it that way and begin to help more and more in the keeping of it that way.  

We have two more weeks left in this series and I'm so hopeful that you're feeling encouraged and empowered to tackle all of your spaces and get them whipped into shape.  Next week we'll be talking about our hidden spaces, (and how it's actually okay to shove things under the bed, etc) so make sure to check back in!
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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Let's talk about our wardrobe.

Today is just for fun and I'm interrupting my Organized Summer series just for a moment, because I have been wanting to blog about this topic for ev-uh!!  Have y'all ever heard of Stitch Fix?  For some reason, none of my friends had heard of it recently, so I educated them!!  Then, that got me to thinking perhaps some of you haven't heard of it either and hey, what are friends for?

Firstly, I have to say that I have been guilty of being in an appearance rut in years past.  I know we've talked about this subject in more detail before, but the bottom line is, I have a tendency to go with easy and comfortable and forget that there is also... cute!  (And that cute doesn't have to be uncomfortable or mean I'm trying to look like a twenty year old.)  I box myself in basically.  So, when I heard about Stitch fix, and the little box of stylish goodness that can arrive on one's doorstep, essentially pulling them out of their style rut and plopping them right into style-city... I signed up.

The idea is, that you spend $20 and that gives you a personal stylist who sends you a box of five clothing or accessory items after you spend just a bit of time sharing your size, your height, your style likes and dislikes, and how often you dress up or down, price preferences, and much, much more.  They even peek at your style board on Pinterest to see what you tend to be drawn to!  Your box arrives, and not only do the items fit you, but they each come with a little style card to help you fit each item into your current wardrobe with two ideas about how to wear it, using items you may already own!  (This has been a huge help to me!) After you have tried on the items in your own home and your own mirror (remember that skinny mirror Seinfeld episode?) you have three days to log in and decide what to keep...and then you pay for those items on their website.  The $20 you originally spent goes toward anything you want to keep and if you keep all five items, you also get a $75 discount!  Then, you simply put whatever you don't want back into the postage paid envelope that is provided for you and drop it off in a post office drop box.  It's as hassle free as it gets!

I think the reason I love it so much, is that you can schedule these boxes to arrive anytime you want.  You can do it once a month, less, more, or just for special occasions and whenever you need a little help in this department!  You can make them reoccurring if you want!  I haven't done it for a while (my next one is scheduled for the week of my 40th birthday which is coming up in just a few weeks, because why NOT?) but over the past year, I have gotten a few adorable pieces (shown below) along with tons of good ideas on how to update what I have in my wardrobe.   The best part... if you refer a friend and they try it, you get a $25 credit toward your next fix!  So, like the good friend I try to be (wink) I had to share this opportunity with y'all!

Gray and White Dress- Stitch Fix
Mint Beaded Necklace- (So old... ?) 
Gray pointed toe ballet flats- DSW
 Blouse- Stitchfix
Black skinnies- Calvin Klein
Black hand bag- gift from sister in law years ago
Cowhorn earrings- Noonday
Dip toe ballet flats- Toms
 Printed tank- Stitch fix
White skinnies- consignment?  So old
Gold belt- Target
Wedges- Lands End
Gold Cuff- oldie... maybe Target? 
Statement necklace-Nestled, Etsy
 Split back tank- Stitch fix
Denim Skinnies- Eddie Bauer
Clutch- so old
Gold belt- Target
Beaded drop hoops- Noonday
Leather wedge sandals- Sundance
Tank- Stitchfix
Skinnies- Eddie Bauer
Gray pointed toe ballet flats- DSW
Purple statement necklace- Macy's 

Aren't those fun outfits?  I would have never tried on several of those Stitch fix items if I would have seen them in the store, but then I loved them once I was able to try them on at home, have them fit, and get ideas about how to pair them with things I already owned!  I have to say that each item has become a wardrobe staple and I wear them all regularly.  (Well except for the dress.  I don't have a ton of dress-worthy occasions.  However, I fell head over heels with it and every mom should own a tee-shirt soft dress that looks like a million effortless bucks every time you slip it on, no matter the occasion!

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Organized Summer- vol. 3 "Organizing for school days"

I am very excited about this post today!

As the weeks of summer begin getting slimmer on the calendar, I begin prepping the tried and true organizational systems that have been working for me for years, give or take a few tweaks.  There is a lot to cover when it comes to getting organized for school but taking a small chunk of time to get organized in these areas can truly be a help in the transition from care-free days to the more rigid school- year schedule.
 *Command center. Getting all your information, scheduling and life details organized is important but if your home (like mine) isn't really set up to accommodate one, never fear...  The front of a refrigerator, a small desk, a corner of a kitchen counter top or even a blank wall might work for you!  The main thing, is deciding what you will need to have out and accessible, what you will use/how you will use it, and where is the most logical place in your home to place all these drop zones and then go from there.  Begin by figuring out what you need and keep it practical for the way your family currently works.  Keep in mind, the traffic flow in your home as well. (Beginning with a desk drawer clean-out, paper sort and filing party may also help you before you even begin prepping for command center organization. Refer to my first and second volume in this series for tips on that!)

We don't have a command center exactly, because I keep the big main calendar on the fridge and our family computer is front and center in our kitchen.  We use the limited spaces we have to our best advantages though. Our schedules are getting wilder as the kids get busier, so I also created this  new chalk door for our week at a glance.  It's the natural place we enter and exit into the garage so this door space was converted from useless to constant usefulness! (I had the paint store add some white tint into a quart of chalkboard paint, lightening it slightly, though it wasn't quite as light a gray shade as I was hoping for.  Then I put two coats on the door, let it dry for 24 hours, and hot glued metal letters from Michaels to the door.  I used a chalk pen to make a slightly more permanent grid and hung a bucket for the chalk. It was a great solution to our family not only because of where it is placed in our home, but because of how our family works. We already use it constantly and school hasn't begun.)  

*Homework spaces.  This is always nice to organize in theory but in my own personal experience, homework happens in the kitchen while dinner is getting prepared or cleaned up. Where ever your kids want to be, organize that space so that this works with you, rather than against you.  Move clutter off tables or islands, place centerpieces and fruit bowls on trays for easy mobility, keep a jar of pencils handy, fill your printer cartridges and stock up on essential supplies. 
 *Family Binder.  This is all over Pinterest and you can easily create one for yourself with free printables and an evening of penciling in important information.  I like to use 3-ring, clear page protectors because I can slip papers in and out as I need to.  For example, school calendars, emergency contact lists, etc.  A little planning and organizing and you'll have all of your phone numbers, emergency plans/systems, school forms, sports information, medical paperwork and such, all in one easy to grab spot. Once it's done, you can continually adapt it for your family's changing needs.
(I found my binder at Office Max on sale... and I superglued a cute little label holder to the outside.  I have had a stash of these cute label holders for ages, but I think I found them in a scrapbooking section at either JoAnns or Michaels.  Superglue is awesome.)

*Car bag. I have to say this is right at the top of my organizing for school list.  It only takes a few moments and chances are, you've already got everything you'll want to put into this, already in your home.  I love to keep a bag or bin with supplies I can dip into as we scurry from school to soccer fields, etc.  A blanket (always handy to keep) a few bottles of water or juices, snacks, first aid kit with fresh boxes of band aids, sunscreen, (and if you have littles, changes of clothing, socks, undies... very nice to have!)  I would add to this, while you're organizing your trunk for operation make the kids happy after school, take a moment to also put together a Mom comfort bag.  Toss that fold-up chair into the mix, make sure you've got a jacket or quilt, waters, healthy snacks, a paperback book, pony tail holders, sunscreen, and sunglasses to name a few.  You can go crazy packing for emergencies but these are all I've really ever wished I had on hand. (My bag is from LL Bean and you can monogram it any way you like.... I love being "Mrs. B.")

*Media organization. While getting ready for school, you might want to consider a few other things to organize... Where your media items get charged and stored (our phone chargers are all out in the kitchen so nobody has a phone in bed with them after hours) and where to keep all extra power cords, headphones, flash drives, etc. We have one drawer designated for this. This is also a great time of year to move the family computer out in the open, add some pass codes and such on all electronic devices and even put age-appropriate password protection on your television sets. 

*School clothes shopping. We are soon to hit a few stores for just a few needed school clothing items. Before we do that, I typically have my kids go through every single item of clothing with me. (I know, I know. But just trust me, it helps you not purchase any items that aren't needed!  If you're on a budget, this is a tried and true method.)  I bring a few paper bags with DONATE written on them, a trash bag, and a laundry hamper.  I have them bring everything out and dump the whole pile onto the floor.  Then, we spend about an hour (or less) going through them, item by item, often having them try things on so we can agree together on where it goes.  Does it fit? Keep.  Is it in good repair, no holes? Keep (If not, donate and if holes, trash).  Everything kept goes into the laundry hamper and gets washed and then I take a little time and help them get it all organized.  Once we know what they have, we can discuss what they need and we make our shopping list from there.  Also, a chalk-pen makes for quick outer drawer labeling if you have a kid that needs that, and wipes off with a magic eraser if you ever need to make changes.)

*Folders for school year keepsakes.  Years ago, my boss (before she was my boss) rocked my world with this school year tip.  She advised a group of us Mothers of Preschoolers to set aside one envelope folder, per child, per school year. The idea is to keep only what is truly important and fits into that folder for each school year.  She suggested that they all be kept in a bin in the child's closet.  Once your child is ready to leave home, they will have 12 or 13 folders with samples of handwriting, report cards, teacher notes, awards, photos etc and it will all be organized by year!  I've been doing this since mine were in preschool and it works so well.  (I purchased mine at Office Max and slipped my own computer-made labels into the fronts of each folder.)

I hope this helps you tackle a few of those before school organizing jobs, and I really hope it helps you feel ahead of the game!  Be sure to check back in next week for more tips on summer organizing! 

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